It can be argued that this was not truly a "must win" game because it wouldn't have ended the series, although any margin for error that ever existed would have been totally erased with a Lightning loss.
What can't be argued is that an absolutely incredible comeback effort is the reason why the Lightning don't have to worry about that.
Because what can't be overstated is the difference between being down 3-1 with nothing guaranteed but one more home game and being tied 2-2, reducing the series to a best of three with two games on home ice.
This one began with a scoreless opening period and Detroit getting on the board at 5:42 of the second on a goal from Gustav Nyquist. Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader picked up the assists.
They double the margin at 14:24 on a flukey goal that was actually deflected into the net by Lightning goalie Ben Bishop attempting to get control of an odd, high rebound. Joakim Andersson was credited with the goal while Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco were given assists on what felt like a backbreaker at the time.
The period ended with Detroit up 2-0, and it stayed that way for three-quarters of the third.
It wasn't that the Lightning were terrible or severely outplayed but Detroit's defense had done a terrific job of keeping Lightning skaters from getting to where they wanted to go and Petr Mrazek was as consistently solid at turning away Tampa Bay skaters as he'd been in every game (with the exception of Game 2 back in Tampa). Once again, the power play had come up empty, this time to the tune of 0 for 4. Facing a two-goal deficit with just over five minutes remaining, it looked like the Lightning would be heading back to Amalie Arena with the relatively modest goal of staving off elimination at home.
Then things got interesting.
Tyler Johnson scored with 5:26 remaining in regulation. Anton Stralman contributed the lone assist on the play.
Just 77 seconds later, Ondrej Palat tied the game on assists from Johnson and Jason Garrison, who was making his first appearance of the postseason.
Tied 2-2 going into overtime, the Lightning actually had a pretty good scoring chance off the opening faceoff but Stralman was unable to get a stick on the puck.
No worries. Johnson scored the game winner at 2:25 thanks to help from Victor Hedman, who fought through a check to make the play possible, and Palat.
- Also making his first appearance of the playoffs was rookie forward Jonathan Drouin.
- Johnson's first goal ended a streak of 107 shots taken by the Lightning at Joe Louis Arena without a goal.
- The Lightning also ended a drought of 119:08 without a goal by scoring two within a minute and 17 seconds.
- It wouldn't be fair to point out the ongoing struggles of the Lightning power play without offering kudos to the penalty kill for keeping the Red Wings 0-for-4 on the night also.
- This win ensures the series will go at least six games. As noted above, if it goes seven, two of the three will be played in Tampa.
- Saturday's Game 5 will start at either 3:00 PM or 6:00 PM, depending on the outcome of tonight's Game 5 between the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks. If Chicago wins, start time will be at 3. A Nashville win pushes the start back to 6. As of the time this article was published, they were tied at one after two periods because of course.